The nation’s highest court will hear oral arguments next month to consider whether Mr Trump is ineligible for the presidency under the scope of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.
Last month’s historic Colorado Supreme Court decision at the centre of the case determined that his actions on January 6 during the attack on the US Capitol “constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection.”
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court as Trump v Anderson, among dozens of challenges from voters and state officials to Mr Trump’s eligibility under the provisions of the 14th Amendment. A decision from the high court could have sweeping impacts for Mr Trump’s campaign as he seeks the Republican nomination for president while battling criminal cases and lawsuits across the US.
“The Court should put a swift and decisive end to these ballot-disqualification efforts, which threaten to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans and which promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots,” Mr Trump’s attorneys wrote in their brief to the court on Thursday.
Mr Trump “is not even subject to Section 3,” according to his attorneys, pointing to language that applies to an “officer of the United States”.
“And even if President Trump were subject to Section 3 he did not ‘engage in’ anything that qualifies as ‘insurrection,’” his attorneys wrote. “The Court should reverse on these grounds and end these unconstitutional disqualification efforts once and for all.”
Among more than a dozen filings to support or oppose the parties in the case, a group of Republican secretaries of state warned that the justices could unleash an “unfortunate parade of horribles” unless they reverse the Colorado decision.
Dozens of Republican members of Congress – including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has previously held Mr Trump “practically and morally responsible” for January 6, when a mob assaulted the halls of Congress “in his name” – also urged the court to reverse the Colorado decision.
Justices will hear oral arguments in the case on 8 February.
The case is one of two major constitutional challenges involving Mr Trump’s campaign and the volatile aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, which fuelled the attack at the Capitol that informs the 14th Amendment challenges against him. Justices are also likely to review whether Mr Trump has presidential “immunity” from charges connected to his attempts to overturn election results, pending an imminent decision from a federal appeals court.
A three-judge federal appeals court panel appeared sceptical of Mr Trump’s arguments during a hearing earlier this month. An appeal of that case would likely head to the high court.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment holds that “no person” who took an oath to support the Constitution can hold “any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State” if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same” or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
A lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on behalf of a group of Colorado voters in September argued that Mr Trump had “failed” Section 3’s test, rendering him “constitutionally ineligible to appear on any Colorado ballot as a candidate for federal or state office”.
In November, in a decision following a trial and arguments stemming from the lawsuit, Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace found that not only did Mr Trump incite the attack on the Capitol in an effort to block the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election, he also “engaged” with it.
Mr Trump “acted with the specific intent to incite political violence and direct it at the Capitol with the purpose of disrupting the electoral certification,” she wrote.
After an appeal to the state’s highest court, Colorado justices wrote in a 4-3 majority opinion on 19 December that “President Trump did not merely incite the insurrection.”
“Even when the siege on the Capitol was fully underway, he continued to support it,” they continued. “These actions constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection.”